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Cheap but Legal

(Photo © Will Hart, HBO-PPV)
(Photo © Will Hart, HBO-PPV)


Does anyone remember the NFL contest in 2002 between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers? There was nothing historic or particularly memorable about that game (if I recall correctly, I think the Bucs came out victorious in that game, which took place way back when Brett Favre was still the apple of everyone’s eye in Wisconsin) but what that match-up will forever be remembered for is the vicious crack back delivered by Warren Sapp on Chad Clifton after an interception. The collision was so violent that Clifton’s career nearly came to a premature end (www.usatoday.com/sports/football). In a memorable exchange at end of the game, Packers coach Mike Sherman told the Bucs star that he had taken a cheap shot, to which Sapp responded, "Put on a jersey."
 
There was great debate as to whether Sapp really needed to deliver that hit, especially in light of the fact that it seemed a bit unnecessary and away from the play. However, while that debate raged, what Sapp did was not illegal or against the rules (although that has now been changed).

Legal doesn’t always mean ethical and because you can do it, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. But then all’s fair in love and war (and sports), isn’t it?
 
I think Victor Ortiz learned that lesson well this past weekend at the MGM Grand. I don’t think I have to rehash what took place against Floyd Mayweather on Saturday night. I’m sure you’re read one account after another and I’m positive that you’ve heard the old phrase “Protect yourself at all times” ad nauseam since Ortiz was quick-pitched by Mayweather in the fourth round of their bout.
 
Now this may not be a popular opinion but really, Ortiz did this to himself. And no, he’s not a victim but really just a co-conspirator here.
 
Let’s go back to how this all started; for the first three rounds, this fight pretty much went according to script. Mayweather, the master technician and tactician, controlled the action and hit Ortiz with sharp right hands with unerring precision and accuracy that seem to strike like a cobra. Ortiz, a strong, largely one-dimensional southpaw, was being neutralized easily by Mayweather. Finally in the fourth, he had a moment of success and landed a left hand that backed up Mayweather to the ropes. The excitement grew inside the arena, the crowd perhaps hoping and wishing they saw more success out of Ortiz than what was actually taking place and Ortiz would inexplicably halt any momentum he had by going all Koko B. Ware on Mayweather. If this were the NFL, he would’ve been suspended for leading with his head and “launching.”
 
At that point, you had to think to yourself, ’Huh…never really saw that before,’ but we hadn’t seen nothing yet, it turned out.
 
A night even Robert Ripley would have a difficult time comprehending was just getting started. After the action was stopped and Ortiz was rightfully penalized, the young man who said he had thought of this moment since he was nine years old attempted to make amends with Mayweather as well as pleasantries. To his (and many observers’) surprise, Ortiz was then quick-pitched by Mayweather who blasted him with a perfectly placed left/right combination, leaving him dazed and prone on the canvas, unable to beat referee Joe Cortez’s ten count (once again, the Fair-but-Firm arbiter finds himself at the center of controversy because of his inability to control the action and administer effective authority. More on him later).
 
A lot of fans seem to make this a black-and-white issue. Either they believe Ortiz got what was coming to him or that what Mayweather did was dirty and a cheap shot. Truth is both sides are probably correct.
 
Be honest; many of the folks who are outraged by Mayweather probably cheered vigorously as he was rammed by the dome of Ortiz. They thought, ’Hey, yeah, this is great! This kid doesn’t give a (y’ know what) about him and is making it a fight!’ Not only was he showing passion but he was getting downright nasty on “Money.” Isn’t this what we all came to see; Mayweather shaken up, taken out of his comfort zone, made to be uncomfortable and pushed? But how would the paying public have felt if that clash of heads caused a cut on either fighter that would have halted the fight then and there? And if the tables and results were turned, this would be hailed as the ultimate of comeuppances. The question has to be asked, did we not like what happened or who it happened to?
 
As for the knockout blow, well, you could just hear the ghost of Jack Sharkey saying, ’Yeah, I know what Ortiz is going through.’ If you know Mayweather’s history, this isn’t anything unusual. He pulled a similar tactic against Arturo Gatti in the first round of their contest. Touch gloves and get broken up at your own risk against “Money.”
 
Once again, some of the onus has to be placed on Cortez, who long ago stopped being fair or firm. While he and Keith Kizer, Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (which keeps assigning Cortez to some of their biggest and most important events despite overwhelming evidence that he long ago lost a foot or three off his fastball), keep stating that he had called a time-in to the action after all the shenanigans, a replay clearly shows that for some reason, Cortez had his attention directed toward the outside of the ring. Seemingly, Cortez didn’t really witness the two punches that caused Ortiz to go crashing to the canvas and was somewhat stunned to see Ortiz in that prone position. At that point, Cortez looked to take the easy way out by administering the count. It has to be asked; if he did call for the action to be resumed, why weren’t his eyes focused clearly on the two combatants in the ring? Regardless of where Cortez’s focus was, Ortiz’s needed to be on his foe in the most important contest of his life.
 
At one time, Cortez was a premiere third man in the ring (that’s why he was inducted into the Hall of Fame) but now he is clearly someone who has held on too long, enabled by the NSAC. If Evander Holyfield was a referee, he’d be Joe Cortez.
 
This is not to absolve either participant. Ortiz has always been a quirky sort with some contradictions to his personality. Think about it: intentionally foul Mayweather in one moment and then hug it out the next? He should’ve known better. If you do what you did to any professional prizefighter- especially one as prideful as the guy he was facing- you should expect retaliation. As for Mayweather, while he won (as always), he didn’t cloak himself in any particular glory. The fans who spent their hard-earned money to view this fight, either in person or via pay-per-view, did so with the knowledge or belief that they came to see a professional prizefight under a certain set of rules with a modicum of respect toward the sport- a world-class boxing match between two highly skilled, well-conditioned professionals. And “professional” is the key word here; neither Ortiz nor Mayweather maintained their professionalism particularly well on this evening. Whether you want to admit it or not, if you love or loathe him, you come to see Mayweather either display his God-given talent or to be vanquished. The conclusion of this fight was unsatisfying to say the least.
 
Not since the notorious “Bite Fight” in 1997 between Holyfield and Mike Tyson have I heard such outrage over the ending of a fight. The usual promises of never purchasing another pay-per-view contest- or more specifically, a Mayweather promotion- were read all over the Twittersphere. Let’s be honest; for all this screaming and hollering of “Floyd-cotts,” the next time he fights (I say around May of 2014), Mayweather will once again rope everyone in and do well over a million buys. What is ironic is that, up until the ending, this was a fairly entertaining affair. Nobody could say with a clear conscience that this was boring (Mayweather-Carlos Baldomir it wasn’t) and while some may disagree, the verbal battle he had with Larry Merchant (who, unfortunately for us, isn’t 50 years younger) capped off a night that was incredibly memorable in a lot of ways.
 
And that doesn’t mean that it’s particularly good for the sport of boxing.
 
On this night, everyone was to blame.
 
UNDERCARD
 
I have to come clean; I didn’t get to see the whole “Star Power” pay-per-view card because for some reason, despite being told for months that anyone at the Staples Center on Saturday night could see the whole card, instead, while Jessie Vargas and Josesito Lopez were engaging in a tightly contested affair, we were treated to a preliminary fight (which was OK since I could then fully concentrate on the Miami-Ohio State game on my computer for much of the third quarter). Here are some quick thoughts on the fights I did see...
 
- Erik Morales will always be Erik Morales and he showed it again by halting Pablo Cesar Cano in ten rounds. It was your typical “El Terrible” fight, full of action and back-and-forthing. By the end of the fight, both men wore the scars of battle. In the end, Morales took over using his guile and overflow of guts. The toll he exacts on himself in each and every outing is incomprehensible. You have to wonder if he should even be doing this anymore. In many ways, Morales is boxing’s guilty pleasure.
 
I can’t lie; if Morales was involved in a pillow fight, he’d made it bloody and brutal- and I’d want to be there watching.
 
- Like everyone else, I thought the stoppage from referee Wayne Hedgpeth was premature but honestly, I thought Saul Alvarez was well on his way to winning. Simply put, while Alfonso Gomez gave his typically game and honest effort, he was simply too small and didn’t possess enough pop to really affect Alvarez. Much like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., you have wonder if Alvarez is more popular than good.
 
Hopefully, we’ll find out sometime in 2012.
 
AEG
 
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; from the view of a guy who is vested in the sport and business of boxing and plans to live and die in Los Angeles, AEG has been the best thing to happen to our city in terms of sports and business in a very long time. Saturday night, I was seated next to Steve Springer, who for years was on the Los Angeles Times staff and has written many books that involve L.A. sports. I commented about this and he concurred.
 
Just think about it; without AEG, I’m not sure how much world-class prizefighting we’d see in Southern California without their presence and arenas like the Staples Center and the Home Depot Center, among other properties. Unlike many other corporate entities, AEG actually embraces boxing, including it as an integral part of its business plan and revitalizing the downtown area with L.A. Live. It looks like they are right on the goal line regarding the NFL’s return to the city.
 
As I saw a crowd of around 9,000 that came essentially to see one fight live, I thought to myself, “Without this building and their management, none of us would probably be here.” I think it’s hard to argue that Los Angeles would remain a true boxing city- something that can no longer really be said of regions like Philadelphia and New York- without them.
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
I guess it must’ve been a big event at Staples Center because they had the soft-serve frozen yogurt machine- which I certainly took advantage of- going inside the Chick Hearn Press Room…After the conclusion of the Mayweather fight, a huge brawl broke out at the Staples. I’ll say it again; Los Angeles has very passionate boxing fans...I have to admit, my neck is sore from looking up at the scoreboard all night...Speaking of Sapp and what he said to Sherman, Mayweather should’ve told Merchant, “Put on your Everlasts.”...I spoke briefly to Larry on Sunday and he joked, "Floyd wouldn’t fight me. I wouldn’t take blood tests."...I’ll say this for heavyweight Seth Mitchell, at the very least, he’ll be involved in some fun scraps...I get the sense that Mercito Gesta is a tad complacent as it relates to who he’s been currently matched with...I said it before; the Buffalo Bills (who have great uniforms, by the way) will be spoilers this year. They have a lot of offensive weapons at their disposal...At this pace, Cam Newton will throw for over 6,400 yards and go 0-16…I guess the Ravens had a bit of a letdown post-Steelers, huh?...Can you believe Elise is still around in “Hell’s Kitchen”?...”Football Life” on the NFL Network is outstanding, a must-see...Big win for the ‘Canes and Al Golden (\his first at Coral Gables). They just have to keep riding the legs of Lamar Miller…I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.


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